Ashok home is a home located in the inner side of the basti built by the head of the family a long time ago. Living in about 25 sqm, the home houses 12 people, 7 adults and 5 children. All eating, sleeping and going about their lives in this tight space. When we had first asked permission to talk to them, they seemed to be in the middle of a busy morning routine with the women cooking in a tiny kitchen getting ready for the day, they asked us to comeback in a short time. The second time we visited them, they let us into their home, the first thing one would notice here is the sheer shortage of space, when 11 people live in such a small home, it's not just them coming and staying there, all their lives' belongings would be there and that was the first thing that struck us. The amount of 'stuff' they had. Storage seemed to be the predominant need for this home. Upon further discussion we realised that they had been very concerned when they first saw us, with our measuring tapes and clicking pictures. After clarifying that we were not from the government but just an independent party looking into living conditions, their tone seemed to be much more friendly. These people were very frustrated with the government. The elder son, was pretty upset about all the promises the government was making but not fulfilling, how, many had come to take measurements but it leading to nowhere. Heat was a predominant concern because of the upcoming summer. The narrow lanes helped ease the heat to a certain extent.
This home belonged to an old lady who had come down from Karimnagar, to the city after getting married to her husband who stayed here, and had constructed the house almost XX years ago. As is the case in most of the basti, they were settlers into here, occupying unoccupied land and building homes over this self-proclaimed land. Kautilya had been staying here for 60 years, her husband has passed away, and her children are now married, with children of their own. All 5 of them live here in this tiny dwelling with her children often living at her sons in-laws place, which is a government constructed home under a scheme, to escape the heat. Asbestos roofs have low thermal mass which heats us the dwelling very quickly.
The house has almost no windows rendering it rather uncomfortable to stay in even on an early March morning (around 8:30). The home had no tables or platforms, consisting of only a stove placed on the ground, presumably as an upgrade over the olden wood burning stoves. There was an almirah located in the kitchen/living/bedroom. In one corner, a small CRT TV set with a set top box completes the appliances in the home.
After a brief chat we came to the understanding that the government had contacted many in the basti offering them a more well-constructed home in place of their existing homes, but the offer had been turned down as the vertical style construction that government promised would not allow for further expansion. They were living a modest life but ambitions for growth are still very much present.
This house faces the main street, and has a tiny porch way leading you to the inside, 2 rooms. the porch way doubles as a wash area and cleaning area. there were also beds kept on their sides, which presumably are used in the nights and evenings, when the inside gets too cramped or hot.
her son, daughter in-law and their two kids live along with her. her son is the only working member in the family. her husband first came to the city, as an employee at DBR mills. they seemed content with the amount of space they had for the 5 of them.
Walking into the "slum" the first thing one would notice is how narrow the streets are. To get a good idea of how this feels, imagine walking on the road in a housing colony, except that the houses do not have gates, and the streets are only 800mm wide, barely enough for two people to walk. This particular one that we had gone to, was very well cleaned, is it because keeping the lanes dirty would be too close to their homes ? Or because it's simply easier to maintain ? Because of its size or because there are no vehicles there is not evident. But the lanes are maintained. There are little hints of identity stamped onto the lanes as well, with their 'muggus' everywhere. The activity of what goes on in a house is pretty apparent from the street, because they cannot keep their doors closed. Because of the high density, there is barely enough ventilation, rooms barely have windows and the asbestos sheet roofing complicates the issue completely. The houses are hot, at 8:30 in the morning on a moderately sunny April morning, the heat inside is almost suffocating.
We had the opportunity to observe the interiors of three homes.